Wrestling With Closing Paragraphs

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Many experts are wrestling with closing paragraphs. Conclusions are hard, even experienced writers occasionally have trouble tying up the threads of their arguments and bringing their ideas to conclusion without lapsing into clichés or obvious comments. Many of us struggle with conclusion no matter how long we’ve been writing.

For some writing tasks, endings are almost prescribed and you can find models that will help you. For example, for technical and business reports, case studies or grant proposals, the writer is expected to summarize the findings and if appropriate, make recommendations. Such straightforward endings aren’t too hard to write.

In other kinds of writing, such as an argument or analysis, the writer often needs to restate the main ideas or claims her or she made earlier in order to refresh the reader’s memory. Conclusions of this kind are patterned on the summation lawyers make for juries they restate the principal claims, they summarize the evidence and when appropriate, they make a recommendation.

Other Kinds of Conclusions :

Beyond these rather by – the numbers conclusions, we can’t offer much solid advice about the best way to end an essay. In the hundreds of essays we’ve looked at we’ve found dozens of good ways to conclude. So it’s not easy to generalize. Narwhales, we have three suggestions that may be helpful.

  • Close By Summarizing Your Main Points :

  • David Brooks summarizes his previously stated main points in concluding a section about the rise of the new intellectual class in his book
    Bobos in PARADISE:

    Marx told us that classes inevitably conflict, but sometimes they just blur. The values of the bourgeois mainstream culture and the values of the 1960s counterculture have merged. That culture war has ended at least within the educated class. In its place that class has created a third culture which is reconciliation between the previous two. The educated elites didn’t set out to create this reconciliation. It is the product of millions of individual efforts to have it both ways. But it is now the dominant tone of our age. In the resolution between the culture and the counterculture, it is impossible to tell who has co–opted whom because in reality the bohemians and the bourgeois co–opted each other. They emerge from this process as bourgeois bohemians or Bobos. (
    David Brooks : Bobos in Paradise)

  • Finish With A Recommendation :

  • Cathy Young in her essay
    Keeping Women Weak rejects the kind of feminism that wants to overprotect women and portray them as victims:

    We need a Third Wave feminism that rejects the excesses of the gender fanatics and sentimental traditionalism of the Phyllis Schlaflys, one that does not seek special protection for women and does not view us as too socially disadvantaged to take care of ourselves. Because in the path that feminism has taken in the last few year, we are allowing ourselves to be treated as frail, helpless little things by our would–be liberators. (
    Cathy Young : Keeping Women Weak)

  • Tie The Last Paragraph to The First Paragraph :

  • You can give your readers a sense of closure and wrap up your essay by plucking an image or reference from your opening paragraph and using it in your last paragraph. Barbara Kingsolver does this in an essay that is her tribute to a librarian

    The following is the Opening Paragraph :

    A librarian named Miss Truman Richey snatched me from the jaws of ruin and it’s too late now to thank her. I’m not the first person to notice that we rarely get around to thanking those who’ve helped us most. Salvation is such a heady thing the temptation is to dance gasping on the shore, shouting that we’re still alive till our forgotten savior has long since gone under. Or else sit quietly, sideswiped and embarrassed, mumbling that we really did know pretty much how to swim. But now that I see the wreck that could have been, without Miss Richey, I ‘m of a fearsome mind to throw my arms around every living librarian who crosses my path, on behalf of the souls they never knew they saved.

    The following is the Closing Paragraph :

    My thanks to Doris Lessing and William Saroyan and Miss Truman Richey. And every other wise teacher who may ever save a surly soul likes mine. (
    Barbara Kingsolver : How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life)

    Eleanor Hennessy used this strategy in writing the final paragraph of her easy on Artemisia Gentileschi, picking up on the theme of overcoming obstacles that she had opened with.

    Here is her original paragraph:

    It is gratifying to know that woman artist whose genius was obscured for centuries by a male – dominated professional has finally received the recognition she deserves. But it is even more satisfying for a woman student today to learn the story of this magnificent woman who more than three centuries ago refused to accept the negative judgments of a narrow–minded and biased society and went on to prove her talent and succeed in a hostile world. Artemisia Gentileschi’s story should inspire every young woman of today who has become discouraged as she fights against odds to establish herself.

    When Hennessey reread the paragraph as she was revising, it sounded adequate but bland, particularly the last sentence. She drafted two more versions before she camp up with a much stronger version that gives more important details. She took a chance by finishing an academic paper with an unconventional last sentence but she did so to emphasize her admiration for her subject.

    Here is the revised paragraph.

    Gentileschi has finally achieved the recognition she deserves only because in the 1970 and 1980 a handful of women art historians challenged the assumptions of their discipline, one that had never taken women artists seriously. Two of those historians, Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, say “Modern Art history […] identifies women artists as inevitably and naturally artists of lesser talent and no historical significance. “Parker, Pollock and others – Notably Germaine Greer – did the research necessary to bring to light the paintings that demonstrate Gentileschi’s genius and to confirm her stature in her own day. Mary Garrard, in her 1989 biography, has supplemented those treasures by giving us the story of this amazing woman who went against the grain of their culture of triumph over obstacles that women of today can scarcely imagine. It’s an awesome story to which one can only say, “Yes! Ain’t that a woman?"

    Other Pages in This Section :

  • The External View of Paragraphing

  • The Internal View of Paragraphing

  • Crafting Opening Paragraphs

  • Successful Writing Index

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